A law school graduate who was charged but never convicted of soliciting a minor online for sex has been permanently blocked from admission to practicing law in Louisiana.
The Louisiana Supreme Court on September 28 found that Philip Pilie, a 2007 University of Georgia School of Law graduate who passed the bar examination in 2009, lacked the character and fitness to practice, despite the fact that he was not convicted of the crime.
"[T]he lack of a criminal conviction does not prevent this court from considering the effect to be given to the conduct for purposes of our constitutional responsibility to regulate the practice of law," the court wrote in its per curiam decision.
In 2007, a month before he was scheduled to take the bar exam, Pilie contacted a person on the Internet whom he believed was a 15-year-old girl, according to the decision. They chatted for more than an hour, during which time Pilie told her that he wanted to meet and have sex. Pilie actually was communicating with a Kenner, La., police detective. He was arrested at the meeting place and charged with computer-aided solicitation of a minor and attempted indecent behavior with a minor, both felonies.
Pilie amended his application for admission to the bar to reflect the arrest and was later informed by the Louisiana Committee on Bar Admissions that he could not sit for the exam.
In October 2008, he completed a pre-trial diversion program, an alternative to prosecution that includes counseling, with the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office. All charges against Pilie subsequently were dropped and the matter was closed.
That same month, Pilie again applied to take the bar exam and was allowed to do so. He passed the test but was told in March 2009 that he lacked the character and fitness for admission to practice.
Pilie filed a petition in October 2009 seeking admission to the bar with the Louisiana Supreme Court, which denied the request. Pilie’s second petition to the court was the subject of the September 28 ruling, in which the justices found a reversal unwarranted.
"Petitioner’s showing of changed circumstances relates primarily to his recent marriage and his continued (though sporadic) psychiatric counseling," the court wrote. "These circumstances have little, if any, relevance to the issue of petitioner’s character and fitness to practice law."
The court found that Pilie’s lack of a criminal conviction made no difference in its reasoning.
"Had petitioner been a practicing attorney at the time of his misconduct, it is very likely he would have been permanently disbarred," the court wrote. "Given this fact, we can conceive of no circumstance under which we would ever admit petitioner to the practice of law."
As such, the court prohibited Pilie from ever again seeking admission.
A LinkedIn profile for Philip Pilie lists Smith Stag, a law firm in New Orleans, as his employer. A receptionist there said that he was on another call and took a message, which was not returned. Pilie holds a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering from Texas A&M University, according to the online profile.
Contact Leigh Jones at email@example.com.